30 May 2013 by Debbie Wood, Senior Staff Writer Last Updated: 23 Jan 2016

Towing Capacity
  • Find out more about towing capacity
  • New laws mean more restrictions for drivers
  • Find out which vehicles make great tow cars

When it comes to towing, it's important to know your weights.

Whether you are looking to tow a caravan for your next family holiday, a utility trailer to transport business goods or you need extra capacity for moving house, making sure you use the right vehicle and trailer for the job is key.

To help you make sense of it all, we’ve put together this useful guide.

What does towing capacity mean?

First thing's first: you need to make sure that what you wish to tow doesn’t exceed the trailer's own maximum authorised mass or the car's maximum towing capacity.

If you are using a trailer rather than caravan or horsebox, the second important thing to point out is the maximum capacity will also include the weight of the trailer so you will need to add that into the equation when thinking about what you are looking to transport.

There are usually two maximum weights that will be specified in your car’s driver manual, a braked trailer weight and an un-braked trailer weight. It is important to note that if the combined trailer weight is more than 750kg or over half the cars kerb weight, the trailer must be fitted with brakes.

I want to tow a caravan for the next family holiday

The weight of caravans can vary but generally speaking, a car that has a 2,000kg towing capacity will in most cases do the job. Examples include the BMW 5 Series Touring, Hyundai Santa Fe and the Skoda Superb Estate.

For larger twin-axle caravans, more than a 2,000kg towing capacity may be required. If this is the case, large 4x4’s or pick-ups like the Land Rover Discovery (3,500kg) and Ford Ranger (3,350kg) will be up for the task.

I want to tow some junk to the tip

If you are having a clear-out and looking to transport a trailer to and from the tip, a small un-braked trailer will be ideal for this.

Most small hatchbacks will be able to pull a trailer with a weight of around 500kg including cars like the Mini Clubman and Ford Fiesta. If you are looking to transport slightly heavier goods, cars like the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Yeti offer braked trailer capacity of 1,400kg.

I want to transport heavy mechanical equipment across business sites

If you are looking to tow anything heavier than 2,000kg, the list of suitable cars starts to get smaller, and moving up to the 3,500kg, the list shrinks even more. Below is a list of the cars that can tow 3,500kg.

When towing for business, if you add a trailer, taking the total weight over 3,500kg, then a tachograph, in most cases, should be fitted. Most vehicle manufacturers will offer a tachograph as a cost option.

I want to tow a horsebox

Horses come in all shapes and sizes, and average weights can vary from 200kg for a small pony up to 1000kg for a Shire. Horseboxes also vary vastly in weight so it’s important to having an accurate figure of what is to be towed.

We would recommend using a vehicle that has over a 2,000kg capacity.

The legal bit

January 2013 saw the laws on towing change, placing new restrictions on drivers dependant on when their licence was issued. If you want to tow more than the stated weights in this article, you'll have to take what's called a B+E test to get a towing licence. The test usually costs between £115 and £141 to complete but beware - you may need several lessons before being ready to take the test.

If you passed your driving licence after January 19, 2013, the maximum weight you will be able to tow with a category B licence is 750kg, provided the total weight of the car and what you want to tow does not exceed 3,500kg.

If you passed your test after January 1, 1997 and before the January 19, 2013 you are able to drive a vehicle that weighs up to 3,500kg towing a trailer of up to 750kg, bringing total weight allowed to 4,250kg. You may also tow a trailer over 750kg as long as the weight of the trailer is no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, up to a combined weight of 3,500kg.

Any licences issued before January 1, 1997 enable the driver to drive a vehicle and tow with the combined maximum weight of 8,250kg. You can also drive a minibus towing a trailer of up to 750kg.

Important things to remember

  • The speed limit when towing is 60mph on motorways and dual carriageways and 50mph on single carriage roads
  • The maximum width of a trailer should not exceed 2.3m and 7m in length.
  • If the trailer is wider than the car you wish to drive then towing mirrors should be fitted.
  • If you fit a tow bar to your vehicle then it must meet EU regulations and be designed for use with that car.
  • If you have never towed before, it is always a good idea to practice as much as possible, especially reversing and parking with a trailer attached.

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Click here to Find out which cars Parkers ranks as top towing performers